True (... Sort Of)

By Katherine Hannigan

Greenwillow Books, 2011


True (... Sort Of) is the story of an endearing but rambunctious girl named Delly Pattison. Delly’s quick temper gets her in trouble day after day. Her exuberance leads her on "Dellyventures" that only her little brother RB seems to really understand. One day there is a new kid in school, Ferris Boyd, who doesn't talk and is never, ever to be touched. Ferris is a "mysturiosity" to Delly and must therefore be investigated.

Brud Kinney loves basketball nearly to the point of obsession. When the Boyd family moves to town, Brud is thrilled to discover that Ferris loves basketball with his same passion and intensity. Their friendship deepens as they enjoy weekly basketball practice sessions, even though they never speak.

Meanwhile, Delly and RB have created a special hideaway with Ferris where each child feels safe. But Ferris Boyd’s silence covers a secret, and Delly and Brud soon must face difficult choices in order to keep their friendship with Ferris. Although it is whimsical and humorous at times, True (... Sort Of) is amazingly powerful, dealing with the important childhood themes of true friendship, bullying, and learning to define oneself. It also touches on the subject of parental abuse in a meaningful yet appropriate way for children.


About the Author

Katherine Hannigan has studied mathematics, painting, and studio art and has worked as the education coordinator for a Head Start program. Most recently she has worked as an Assistant Professor of Art and Design. In addition to being the author of True (... Sort Of), she has also written Emmaline and the Bunny and the national bestseller Ida Band Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World. She lives in Iowa with a bunch of cats and the occasional bunny or bird visitor. Her backyard hosts an additional array of creatures, including deer, raccoons, possums, and sometimes a skunk. But no alligators… yet!

Related Links

Video: Katherine Hannigan Discusses "True (... Sort Of)"  

Katherine Hannigan’s official website,



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Child Abuse

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Publisher’s Discussion Guide

Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, has created a great Discussion Guide for True (... Sort Of). There is an extensive list of questions related to the book. 


Delly Words

Delly loves to create words that uniquely capture her mood, “surpresent,” “Dellyventure,” “hideawaysis,” “mysturiosity.” Have students find or share other Delly words from the book and discuss what these words mean to Delly. Then ask students to think about words. Do they love to do something or do they ever feel a certain way, and they’ve found there is no perfect word? Have students create their your own words and then share with the class.

Playing Basketball

Ferris and Brud love to play basketball. If a basketball court is easily accessible, borrow some basketballs from the PE teacher and invite students outside to the basketball court. Divide students into four groups, if there are four courts nearby, and explain the rules to “knock out.”

The goal of “knock out” is to make a free throw before the student in front of you or behind you in line does. It is acceptable to “knock” a student’s ball in the air if it is about to go into the basket. Begin by having students line up at the free throw line. The first student shoots a free throw. Right after the first student shoots, the second player shoots a free throw. If the ball for the first student goes in, then the first student runs to get the ball and passes it to the third person in line, who will then try to make a free throw. If the first person misses the free throw, she/he runs to get the rebound and tries to make the basket before the second person can make the basket. It is acceptable for the second shot by a player to be closer than the free throw line. If the second player can make the free throw or the follow up basket before the first player, then the first player is “out” and must sit at the side of the court, waiting for the game to finish. The winner is the last player who continues to make baskets before the other remaining player.

If there are no basketball courts nearby, bring in some buckets and small balls to the library. Create a “mini” version of “knock out” in the library.

Conclude by talking about how important practice is to any sports skill.

Safe Adults

Ferris Boyd’s father does not treat Ferris appropriately. Delly suspects something is wrong, but she’s not sure what to do to help her friend. Who are safe adults from whom you could seek help if you had a friend who was in trouble? Brainstorm as a class when and how you should seek help for a friend.


Character Analysis

After reading the story, have students brainstorm a list of words to describe the main character, Delly Pattison. Then, have students narrow the list down to the six adjectives that capture her personality best. Next, have students, working alone or with partners, search the book for passages showing how Delly fits the adjectives on the brainstormed list. Have students mark the text passages with stick-on notes. Finally, have students share their textual support for each adjective.

Character Trading Cards

Have students use this interactive tool created by Read Write Think,, to create a trading card for one of the characters in the book, capturing information that highlights each character’s search for friendship and his/her role as a friend to the other.


Have students select a character from the novel.  Then, using the online tool Fakebook, ask them to put together a Facebook like profile based on facts from the story.  Have students spend some time thinking about who might be friends with whom and why, and what they might all say to each other. Create a “friends” list and write wall posts depicting events from the story.  

Character Evolution

Using a graphic organizer, show how Delly’s character changes throughout the story.

Hero Writing

Begin the lesson by asking students what the word hero means to them. Write students' answers on the board. Tell students to think about characteristics or personality traits that they think make someone a hero. Have students write about a person whom they know who has done something heroic, making to sure to share the characteristics and actions of that person.  

Persuasive Writing

Have students write a persuasive letter convincing Delly’s mother that Delly is a hero.  

Famous Basketball Players

Have students research famous basketball players and create short digital presentations about the highlights of their careers.

Creating Character Blogs

In this lesson by Read Write Think,, students view examples of appealing blogs, learn the basic elements of blog creation, and then create a blog from the perspective of a fictional character. Students demonstrate understanding of the text by including images, quotations, links, and commentary on their blogs. Students then help one another develop their blogs by acting as editors during the creation stage and reviewing one another's blogs upon completion.